Viswanathan Anand displayed top form in the familiar rapid chess territory and scored two fine wins to emerge as the sole leader after the first day of the Mainz Chess Classic Rapid tournament underway in Mainz.
After his mixed results leading to a second spot finish in the Chess 960 world championship, Anand was in his elements in the version he likes best and made a strong case of winning the title for the 10th time in Mainz.
The Indian ace defeated Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan and Levon Aronian of Armenia before signing off for the day with a draw with Etienne Bacrot of France.
Top two from these four-player double-round-robin preliminaries will proceed to play the final on Sunday.
While Anand, with on 2.5 points in his kitty, got off to a flier, Bacrot and Aronian now follow him a full point behind with 1.5 points apiece. Kasimdzhanov is on just half a point with only a little chance of staging a comeback.
In the Finet Chess 960 Open tournament, Viktor Bologan of Moldova emerged clear first tallying 9.5 points out of a possible 11.
Among the Indians Krishnan Sasikiran emerged as the best performer on 8.5 points while P Harikrishna got 7.5 points in all. World's youngest Grandmaster Parimarjan Negi won the best Under-14 award on 7 points.
All these players will now reappear in the Ordiz open rapid tournament that starts on Saturday.
Playing white in the first game against Kasimdzhanov, Anand's Ruy Lopez turned into a structure akin to the Sicilian wherein the Indian sacrificed a pawn to establish a permanent knight in the centre.
The Uzbek was saddled with a bad black-squared bishop and was gradually pushed to the wall with his weak pawn structure.
With less time on the clock Kasimdzhanov could not defend against the increasing pressure, and in the end his bishop was trapped.
Aronian, meanwhile, won a nice game against Bacrot in round one. The Frenchman went for unwarranted complications and had to pay dearly.
In the second round, Anand had white against Aronian and yet again displayed top technique. Aronian had weaknesses all over the board and his counter play came in form of an exchange sacrifice.
Anand digested the extra material emphatically while at the same time kept Aronian at bay. On another board, Bacrot added to the woes of Kasimdzhanov in the second round.
The third round saw no fireworks and both games were drawn. Kasimdzhanov declared after the game that he will give it his best shot on the final day of the prelims but the pundits here are predicting another Anand-Aronian final.
Standings after day one of prelims:
1. V Anand (Ind, 2.5);
2. Levon Aronian (Arm, 1.5);
3. Etienne Bacrot (Fra, 1.5);
4. Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzb, 0.5).